One of the better stories in Anaheim this season has been the revival of goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Bernier, a once-ballyhooed prospect that fell on hard times over the last few years, has a 1.78 goals-against and .943 save percentage in his last 10 starts. He’s been the Ducks’ life preserver while No. 1 netminder John Gibson deals with a lingering injury — Gibson’s played just once over the last 30 days — and, on Mar. 13, Bernier’s cap received a nice feather as the NHL named him its second star of the week.
It’s a dramatic turnaround from a guy that, in January, went 23 days between starts and admitted he was in a difficult situation.
But things have certainly turned around, which has kickstarted conversations about Bernier’s playing future.
A potential unrestricted free agent this summer, Bernier faces an uncertain future in a typically fickle goalie market. The number of openings among the 30 teams fluctuates from year to year. And there is now a 31st – the Vegas Golden Knights – to factor in.
It is a given the Ducks will choose Gibson as the one goalie they can protect from the expansion draft, which will leave Bernier available for the Golden Knights to pluck away if they so choose. And even if he isn’t grabbed, Bernier could choose to seek the best contract he can find.
“I think it’s been a tough year for a lot of teams and a lot of GMs, just with the Vegas team,” Bernier said. “There are a lot of decisions that are going to have to be made after the season. And especially for me, right? I’m a free agent. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.”
But playing in Anaheim is working and Bernier had a one-word response for possibly staying.
Anaheim appears set in goal with regards to the expansion draft. Gibson will be protected, and AHL San Diego ‘tender Dustin Tokarski was re-signed a couple months ago, presumably as the goalie to be made available.
(The Ducks also have Jhonas Enroth in the fold, currently serving as Bernier’s backup. But Enroth hasn’t seen a second of game action for the Ducks since coming over from Toronto.)
Add it all up, and Bernier seems destined to hit free agency on July 1. That said, don’t rule out a return to the Ducks to work in tandem with Gibson next year. Head coach Randy Carlyle is a fan and, as Bernier’s above quotes illustrate, he’d be happy for another stint in Orange County.